The Board of Selectmen has endorsed a program that helps businesses finance energy conservation projects with a long-term add-on to a specific property's tax bill, something like an annual sewer assessment.
The board unanimously endorsed the idea of having Darien town government participate in the state's new Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program (CPACE), which gives out money for energy-saving projects and then gets it back through a special tax assessment on the property.
The tax assessment stays on the property until the project is paid off, even if the property is bought by new owners, and it could last as long as 20 years. The savings in energy costs are supposed to begin immediately for the business.
The Darien Representative Town Meeting will make the final decision on whether or not the town participates in the program, which involves some administrative expense in changing tax bills and then sending the money on to the state
Clean Energy Finance Investment Authority (CEFIA).
CEFIA reimburses local governments "for its reasonable expenses associated with performing these functions," according to a two-page description of the program by Attorney Adam J. Cohen. (It was unclear Monday evening what organization or person Cohen may have represented, if anyone, in preparing the description of the program.)
Selectman Jerry Nielsen, the owner of a company that owns commercial property in town, said the longer payback period could be helpful to some businesses in town:
"Your project will have to show positive cash flow from Day 1, but this allows you to amortize that cost through a longer period," he said. Even so, he added, "I'd be surprised if you find more than a handful of businesses in town [applying to participate in the program]."
One Darien business, which the selectmen did not name, wants to participate in the program and asked town officials to approve it for Darien, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said.
"There doesn't seem to be any downside" to participating in the program, said Selectman Susan Marks.
Stevenson agreed: "In my opinion, there is no downside. No."